NANA isn't terribly enamored of plotting. Not that it's plotless-anything but-just that it doesn't try imposing narrative order on the chaos of its characters' lives. On the surface that can make it feel a little rudderless. But such a judgment misses entirely the point of NANA. NANA isn't about events, it's about people and experiences. Its purpose lies not in constructing a neatly cresting narrative, but in capturing the reality of life and the poignancy of change at the cusp of adulthood. And it does so with the multifaceted perfection of a fine gem.
The question going into this set is whether the series can maintain that perfection: its honesty, potency, and indeed plain old excellence. Firing on all cylinders for fifty episodes isn't easy to do, and all twelve episodes (well, eleven if you discount the recap) pass with the expectation that the show will trip up somewhere, will somehow flop, fall flat or at least stumble or slip. Even if just momentarily. But it never does. One wonderfully formed scene after another the series does nothing but impress. If the previous set was falling in love with a series you know will break your heart, this is the series breaking your heart. Nearly every scene glitters with telling little touches that open foggy windows into the hearts of its protagonists, while pointing the way towards swelling changes that wash with tide-like regularity through their lives. A parking-lot confrontation where Hachi's heart shatters like glass only to reform into something even more unyielding; a concert where music sets free a torrent of repressed emotion; a late-night tryst driven by a toxic upwelling of self-loathing-again and again the series builds to moments that sear themselves into the memory, and every time their power and unsparing realism comes as a surprise.
The facility of Ai Yazawa's writing is nothing short of astonishing. Even as the series prepares itself to tear your heart out and dance a high-heeled polka on it, it is shining a light through the bewilderingly familiar prism of its characters' personalities. Starkly exposed is both the fragility and the self-reproach that bubble beneath Hachi's blithe self-interest. Briefly glimpsed are the doubt and need that NANA hides behind her brash front. Compassion buds in Hachi, twisted by her self-absorption, just as appreciation buds in NANA, twisted by dependence. The two intertwine, the layers of each personality complementing the other's in ways both healing and imperiling. It's a dance of personalities as delicate as it is powerful, and hands-down the greatest achievement in a series crowded with them.
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